The following are translations of poems from Zahir al Ghafri’s collection: Whenever an Angel Appeared in the Fort (Beirut: 2008)
A Dark Alley
No one in the dark alley but you
The mouth’s flower in the dark
You’re the woman of the last breaths
And empty archways.
Hands in water, knees in soil
Each signal from you is a high threshold to exile.
The sea before your door is the refuge for passers-by
The sea is white in your blue palm
And a mark of my love-stricken heart.
Rebellious memory stirred the autumn leaves
Under the door
You went to pick them up
I was the cold light wind.
Inspiration comes with no compass
Under the riverbank,
You’re the selfsame woman
In the street or the dark alley
Did I say “gloom”?
Did you laugh at the spring that let us down?
Was winter what you meant?
This misunderstanding is a bow
Hanging in ice
Perhaps there should be... no end.
Should we have talked
While heavy clouds were hanging over our heads?
Was our talk like the throw of white dice
And did our spring happiness gush out
Like an archipelago of light?
Silence sails, on a light land, to Beirut
My life returns to the springhead
Like the mast of a prophetess
Carrying treasures and gifts.
These walls have never deserted me
Nor has this beauty that glitters
Over your black eyelid
You’re, in truth, the enemy’s barking.
My last glance was her resort that night,
Thus love sails with knee’s water
With the power of an angel on a bed
Between a mirror, a well and a blue closet.
Between the alleys barks the one that can’t
Between the clouds as I fall asleep
There slip the white dice, the prophetess’ mast
The knee water, the mirror, the well and the blue closet
Into the fountain of happiness.
Said the sage.
Not Today, Not Tomorrow
Not today, not tomorrow
Not like this
Never like this.
You should wait till towers of silence rise from your bowels
Like someone hearing the posts
Collide with the howling of a wolf at night.
To be a man and woman at once
Near the riverbanks
The moment is the same: a skilled hunter
Like Hamlet’s madness at its height
Unarmed but with words
But with keys
Keys that are just a few dreams in your cold palm.
The grand miracle seeks that cloud of despair
As it beats on a horizon as a flag of sins.
Go alone if you wish
To reach the fort
But not today, not tomorrow.
You should also wait for savages who will come
You may find some solution
And write that verse.
Searching for a Dream
This window won’t open but a small injury.
You dream like someone
Begging for sleep in the forest.
With a single stone throw
The dead wake up on the riverbank.
You walk on the edge of the world
To get to the valleys you lost.
On your way stones glisten
Like a golden memory.
The journey is very long
The wind goes after the hands’ waving
Despair lights your eyes dreaming of stars.